Let’s stand up to cancer

…with the help of robots 

Just when young people are supposed to start embracing life – cancer comes crashing in

Friday 29 October is Canteen’s National Bandanna Day, the one day every year that generous Aussies, just like you, buy a bandanna or donate to support young people impacted by cancer. Every single $5 bandanna sold, and even the smallest $1 donation, goes directly to helping young people build coping skills and resilience that will last them a lifetime.

Bandanna Day is so important because it allows Canteen to give young people the support they need at exactly the time they need it.

Unfortunately, young people diagnosed with cancer are often forced to spend long periods in hospital undergoing treatment. This means they’re often isolated, miss weeks and sometimes months of school, start to withdraw from their social lives and can feel disconnected, depressed and challenged by a range of other social and emotional issues.

Thanks to your support, we’ve been able to embrace new technologies via our ‘robots’ program to make sure that these young people can remain connected to their friends and school throughout even the toughest cancer treatment plan.

Described as ‘an iPad on a Segway’ (and we have a version that sits happily on a desk too) our robots are specially designed for young students going through cancer treatment to stay connected to life. Each robot uses teleconferencing technology to sit in class while being operated remotely by the young cancer patient from home or hospital. Through their robot, they can attend classes, see and be heard by their friends and teachers and, perhaps most importantly, maintain daily routines and continue to feel a sense of normalcy.

Each young person is also supported by a keyworker from Canteen who works with them to make sure their specific needs are met by the program – and to link them up with any other helpful Canteen services such as counselling or online support.

According to Matt*, aged 12; “My robot helped me to stay connected and stay close to especially my core group, but not just my core group, all my peers. So just even rolling down the hallway and seeing everyone and just being in that environment and in that sort of group in collection, it makes you feel like you’re a part of something and you’re not; ‘Okay, I’ve got cancer now. I’m not a part of anything. I’m by myself’. It helps you feel like you’re with people and there are people there.”

Canteen robots also provide some much-needed independence at a time when young people feel that cancer has shaken their world. Depending on which robot they have, they can adjust the height of the robot, mimicking the motion of putting their hand up in class and move around throughout the school. In addition, each young person can choose when and how they use the robot.

As Pheobe*, aged 14, says; “It made me feel like I was doing something, I wasn’t just giving up… It’s on my terms—it makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something—when I’m having a bad day and I can go into school.” Robots make the transition of returning to school after treatment easier for young people because they’ve maintained a virtual presence in the classroom during treatment and feel just as engaged with their school and friends as before treatment.

Canteen’s vision is to be able to provide a robot to as many young people who need it, just like Matt and Phoebe, as we can. With your help, we can give young cancer patients the chance to feel supported and connected throughout one of the toughest times in their lives. Watch this space for details about how, why and what CSS will be doing to help.

For more about the robots program please visit canteen.org.au/robots. To join in on the fun of Bandanna Day, go to bandannaday.org.au.

*Names and ages have been changed to protect privacy.